x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Call for action on counterfeit products

Business co-operation and stiffer sentences needed, says report.

Oil filters are among products on display at the Anti- Commercial Counterfeiting Exhibition organised by the Department of PLanning & Economy at Abu Dhabi Mall.
Oil filters are among products on display at the Anti- Commercial Counterfeiting Exhibition organised by the Department of PLanning & Economy at Abu Dhabi Mall.

ABU DHABI // The trade in counterfeit goods needs to be tackled by tougher sentences and more help from the companies being targeted, according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Economy (DPE). The Commercial Counterfeiting Phenomenon report suggests trade in fake products began to mushroom in the early 1970s.

"Just as development has had a positive impact on the lives of individuals and society, it also has had negative effects represented in the commercial counterfeit," said the report, which identifies a number of reasons such trade has flourished. These include the trend among consumers to buy cheap commodities without thinking about the consequences, the high cost of sought-after luxury items prompting shoppers to seek cheap alternatives, a lack of border controls and a failure among shops to properly investigate the source of products they sell.

In addition, the report is critical of "weak legal sanctions? [that] do not act as a deterrent for abusers". Under the Penal Code dating back to 1970, anyone caught selling counterfeit food, medicine or drink in Abu Dhabi can be fined, sent to prison for a maximum of six months, or both. In the northern Emirates, the sentences are applicable only when the goods become harmful to health. Little regulation exists in Dubai, although protection of trademarks is recognised by the Dubai Court of Cassation.

Jail sentences of no more than two years, and fines of no less than Dh500 (US$136), can be handed down for certain counterfeiting offences. The DPE report concludes that the penalties as they exist are not harsh enough to deter anyone from trading in forged or simulated goods. It suggests they should be increased "to keep up with damages resulting from commercial counterfeit violations related in medicine, foodstuff or any good which may be detrimental to health and safety", and calls for compulsory prison sentences as well as longer sentences for repeat offenders. There also needs to be greater co-operation between the Government and private sector, said the report. Sources within the DPE, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there has been frustration caused by a lack of co-operation from some of the larger businesses in the UAE on the issue.

However, many multinational companies, such as Unilever and Adidas, have pitched in on the cause, helping to train DPE staff to tell the difference between genuine and fake goods. "Due to its profitability nature," said the report, "the private sector is a fast-growing and modern environment. It can disclose the commercial counterfeiting methods [and] develop protection against them." @Email:rhughes@thenational.ae